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Court To Rule On Threatened Giant Land Snail

High Court to rule on protection of threatened giant land snail

In a case which could determine whether a threatened species of giant land snail goes extinct, the High Court has been asked to rule on the interpretation of a previously unused section of the law.

Forest and Bird filed documents in the High Court yesterday seeking a declaration on the interpretation of s71 of the Wildlife Act 1953.

Solid Energy New Zealand Ltd has applied under s71 of the Wildlife Act for consent to move Powelliphanta “Augustus” – a threatened giant land snail. The snail’s habitat overlies a coal seam that Solid Energy proposes to mine before the end of the year.

Solid Energy proposes to translocate some of the snails to another site prior to destroying almost the entire 5ha area of habitat. Technical advice from the Department of Conservation is that it is uncertain whether the translocation proposal will work.

“If it fails, then P. “Augustus” will become extinct,” Forest and Bird Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell said.

“This small section of the Stockton Plateau north east of Westport, is the only place in the world that P “Augustus” is found. The risk of losing one of New Zealand’s threatened and endemic species is very real. All parties must move with extreme caution to ensure the best outcome for the snails.”

Section 71 of the Wildlife Act provides that the consent of both the Minister of Conservation and the Minister of Energy is required before Solid Energy does “any act” in respect of absolutely protected wildlife. All species of Powelliphanta snail are absolutely protected under the Wildlife Act.

“Solid Energy is on record as believing that both mining the site - and thereby killing most, if not all, the giant land snails - or moving the snails by digger, are authorised by its coal mining licence,” Kevin Hackwell said.

The Crown considers that under s71 the consent of the Ministers is only required to move the giant land snails by hand and not for moving the snails and their habitat by digger, or killing the snails by mining their habitat.

Forest and Bird’s legal advice is that the consent of both Ministers is required to carry out any act in relation to the giant land snails; including moving the snails by hand or by digger and killing the snails by mining their habitat.

“To date s71 has not been tested by the Courts. As there are at least three divergent views about how s71 can be used in relation to the fate of these giant land snails, Forest and Bird has sought the Court’s interpretation,” Kevin Hackwell said.

“The proceedings are important to ensure that any decision made by the Ministers under s71 is made with a correct understanding of the law as determined by the High Court.”

Forest and Bird has sought an assurance from the Minster of Conservation and Minister of Energy that neither Minister will make a decision until the matter has been resolved by the Court.


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